Option-Adjusted vs. Zero-Volatility Spread: What’s the Difference?

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Option-Adjusted vs. Zero-Volatility Spread: What’s the Difference?

Option-Adjusted vs. Zero-Volatility Spread: An Overview

To determine the value of a security, you may use the option-adjusted spread (OAS) and the zero-volatility spread (Z-spread). A spread often depicts the variation between the two measures. Investors may assess the yield of two distinct fixed-income products with embedded options using the OAS and Z-spread. Some fixed-income securities include clauses known as embedded options that let the investor or the issuer to take particular actions, such calling back the issuance.

For instance, because of the risk of prepayment associated with the underlying mortgages, mortgage-backed securities (MBS) often feature embedded options. As a result, the embedded option may significantly affect both the MBS’s present value and future cash flows.

An option-adjusted spread contrasts a fixed-income product’s yield or return with the investment’s risk-free rate of return. The theoretical risk-free rate depicts the value of an investment after removing all potential risk dynamics. The risk-free return is typically calculated based on U.S. Treasury securities.

The analyst may assess a bond’s price using the zero-volatility spread. It is the constant spread, or distinction, between the current cash flow value and the yield curve for short-term US Treasury securities. Because of its consistency, Z-spread is often referred to as the static spread.

The most fundamental kind of spread notion is the nominal spread. The basis point differential between a risk-free U.S. Treasury debt instrument and a non-Treasury instrument is what is being measured. Basis points represent the difference in the spread. It is a fundamental constraint since the nominal spread only offers the measure at one point along the Treasury yield curve.

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Key Takeaways

  • The embedded option in a bond is taken into account by the option-adjusted spread (OAS), which takes the bond’s total value and potential future cash flows into account.
  • The Z-spread is modified by the option-adjusted spread to include the value of the embedded option.
  • The difference in basis points throughout the whole of the Treasury yield curve is provided by the zero-volatility spread (Z-spread).
  • The analyst will evaluate the value of debt securities using OAS and Z-spread.

Option-Adjusted Spread

The option-adjusted spread, as opposed to the Z-spread calculation, considers how an embedded option in a bond may alter future cash flows and the bond’s total value. The investor may convert the bond into shares of the underlying firm or request an early redemption, among the choices that are encompassed. The issuer may also choose to call back the debt offering.

The cost of the embedded option is determined by subtracting the Z-spread from the option-adjusted spread at the anticipated market interest rate. Both spreads’ fundamental computations are comparable. The bond’s value will be discounted by the option-adjusted spread, however, since options may be included in the issuance. With the use of this calculation, an investor may decide if the quoted price of a fixed-income instrument is reasonable given the risks attached to the additional alternatives.

The embedded option’s value is added to the Z-spread by the OAS. Consequently, it is a dynamic pricing approach that greatly depends on the model in use. Additionally, it enables comparison using the market interest rate and the risk of early bond call, or prepayment risk.

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The option-adjusted spread takes previous data into account when calculating interest rate and prepayment rate variability. Calculations for these variables are difficult since they make an effort to anticipate potential changes in interest rates, mortgage borrowers’ prepayment patterns, and the likelihood of early redemption. Prepayment probabilities are often predicted using more sophisticated statistical modeling techniques, including Monte Carlo analysis.


The difference in basis points throughout the whole Treasury yield curve is provided by the zero-volatility spread. The Treasury yield curve’s Z-spread is a standardized statistic used to compare the bond’s price to its current cash flow value at each maturity point. As a result, the cash flow of the bond is discounted in comparison to the spot rate of the Treasury curve. The tricky procedure is taking the spot rate at a certain curve point and multiplying it by the z-spread. However, the Z-spread does not factor in the value of embedded options when calculating its results, which might have an influence on the bond’s current value.

Given the high risk of prepayment, embedded options are often used in mortgage-backed securities. If interest rates decrease, mortgage holders are more inclined to refinance their loans. Because the bond may be called, the embedded option implies that the issuer can change the future cash flows. If interest rates decrease, the issuer could exercise the embedded option. The call gives the issuer the option to call the existing debt, settle it, and then reissue it at a reduced interest rate. The issuer may cut its cost of capital by reissuing the debt at a reduced interest rate.

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Therefore, those who invest in bonds with embedded options assume more risk. The investor will probably be obliged to reinvest in other bonds with lower interest rates if the bond is called. Bonds with embedded call options often provide higher yields than bonds with comparable terms. In order to comprehend the current value of debt instruments with embedded call options, it is useful to know the option-adjusted spread.

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